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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Women's Soccer | Shorthanded Jumbos victorious over Wheaton

On paper, things did not look good for the Women's soccer team heading into Wednesday's afternoon bout against Wheaton College.

The Jumbos were coming off a shaky 2-0 loss against Colby in their opener and were facing a team ranked first in New England and 13th nationally. The Lyons soundly beat Tufts 2-0 last season. Three key injuries left the Jumbos entering the competition with only 14 players and three substitutes.

Come game time the Jumbos showed those statistics didn't matter, squeaking out a 3-2 victory over the Lyons in front of a rowdy crowd at Kraft Field.

"My heart is still pounding out of my chest," coach Martha Whiting said after the game. "With as many injuries as we had, we just had to keep getting players in and out - don't ask me how we did it."

"Today was the most fun I've had since winning NESCAC's freshman year," senior tri-captain Ariel Samuelson added. "We basically just ruined their season."

Things did not look promising early in the match. Wheaton sophomore Jenna Rabesa gave the Lyons an early 1-0 lead at the 15 minute mark when she took a cross from classmate Lauren Konopka and scored her second goal of the year.

Tufts started to control the ball 25 minutes into the game, keeping it far in the Wheaton zone. With 59 seconds remaining in the first half, the Jumbos finally broke through. Senior tri-captain Sarah Callaghan took a perfect pass from Samuelson and her long, lofted shot found the top of the net to tie it up going into the half.

"The first goal was huge," Whiting said. "It gave us a huge confidence boost, and we headed into halftime with some real hope."

Samuelson agreed.

"I think we still had some momentum heading into the half even without the goal, but it was still big because it showed that we could play with them," she said. "We knew that once we went up on them, we would sink them."

The team came out hungry after the break and took its first lead soon after as senior tri-captain Lindsay Garmirian took a deflected shot by Samuelson and snuck it past Wheaton sophomore keeper Stacey Kronenberg about 12 minutes into the second half.

The Lyons came right back after the Garmirian goal and with one of their own. Sophomore Julie McLane, assisted by Konopka and sophomore Ashley Furr, scored to tie the game at two.

This set the stage for sophomore Joelle Emery's first collegiate goal. With 20 minutes left in the contest, the defender launched a direct kick from over 30 yards over the outstretched arms of Kronenberg and into the northeast goal, giving the Jumbos a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.

"The goalie had the sun in her face and I knew she couldn't see anything," Emery said of the situation. "I was just trying to put the ball up around the net and hope someone could put it in."

The game got considerably more physical as Wheaton scrambled for a tie as time wound down. Samuelson was taken down hard twice.

Tufts was able to hold off several late charges thanks in large part to the play of the team's first-year players. Freshmen Maya Shoham, Ali Mehlsak and Genevieve Citrin, and sophomores Julia Brown and Jessie Wagner were able to quickly get over early season jitters and secure the win. The victory evened the Jumbos' record to 1-1 and dropped the Lyons to 3-3. It was Wheaton's first loss against a New England opponent since 2001.

"We went into the game treating them like any other team," Whiting said. "We prepare for every team with the same intensity, and I think that really helped us."

In earning her first victory, junior keeper Annie Ross made seven saves, including a deflection as she collided with an onrushing Lyon in the closing seconds.

"I'm feeling pretty good right now, though I can never be totally satisfied with myself," Ross said. "But that's what makes me work harder. It was really important to get this first win, and our confidence is immeasurable right now."

Injuries continue to plague the Jumbos. Sophomore Lauren Fedore (concussion), senior Lydia Claudio (ankle), and junior Jen Fratto (back) were all held out of action Wednesday. The team would them back on the field soon.

"At halftime we were all dying, but luckily we were having fun in the second half and didn't feel as tired," Samuelson said. "Once we're a full team I think we're going to be very hard to beat."